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Kentucky Ranks Low On Higher Education Funding


It's summer break for many college students across Kentucky, but a national report says they are not getting a break from lagging state support for higher education. The report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says the state's post-recession investment in public colleges and universities ranks in the bottom 10 nationally.

Researcher Ashley Spalding, who crunched the numbers for the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, says the state is headed in the wrong direction.

"We're not reinvesting in higher education,” Spalding explains. “The report shows that per-student funding has just increased that tiny amount in the past year."

According to the report, the increase this year came to $27 per student when adjusted for inflation. That goes against the national trend, where most states have begun to restore some of the cuts they made to higher education after the recession hit.

Spending is up by roughly $450 per student nationwide.

Kentucky lawmakers have passed a budget that will reduce state spending on higher education 1.5 percent each of the next two years.

"So this is especially hard on low-income Kentuckians who are more likely to have their decision about whether or not to go to college influenced by finances," Spalding stresses.

Spalding adds that the average debt level for a student who obtains a four-year undergraduate degree from a Kentucky public university now tops $22,000. The report shows that over the past seven years tuition has jumped more than 23 percent in Kentucky, while state support has been cut by 25.4 percent.

Spalding maintains failing to reinvest in higher education limits Kentucky's chances for economic success.

"Having a better educated work force makes for a better state economy for Kentucky,” Spalding says. “And so, we'll see impacts in the long term there as well if we don't start to reinvest."

In raw, inflation-adjusted dollars, the state has spent $2,649 dollars less on each college student since 2008.

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